This Old In-house: Hola to OLAs

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What the heck is an OLA? Is it like an SOP, a KPI, an SLA? Well, it is a cousin of the SLA (Service Level Agreement) and it is a part of an SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) – you can forget about the KPI. And what does this all mean to you and your team?

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OLA stands for Operating Level Agreement, and it applies to the sometimes thorny issue of how a project is handed off from one functional team to the next. It is basically a guideline on the condition a design deliverable must be in to be suitable for delivery to the next team that has to do something to that deliverable.

A perfect example of its application is the ever contentious designer/production artist exchange of documents. Sorry for the generalization, but at least in my experience, designers have a tendency to dump sloppily constructed files on to their production artist colleagues, expecting them to clean up the mess. I’m talking about placed images that are lo res and RGB, no bleeds, missing fonts…you get the idea.

OLAs create standards for how those files need to be set up before being given to a production artist. They formally set expectations and hold members of the group accountable. They also should become a part of the onboarding process of new team members.

The structure of an OLA can vary according to the deliverable and the team doing the giving or receiving. A bulletpoint list is often all that is needed. For more complicated files, a more descriptive document may be needed. Regardless of the format, the instructions need to be comprehensive but concise to ensure adoption and continued use.

The result of OLAs is increased efficiency, less finger pointing and better morale and teamwork. So at the risk of having to remember yet another acronym it’s safe to assume that the ROI is well worth adopting your own OLAs.

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